Home inContext White House Pushes for Guantanamo Bay Closure

White House Pushes for Guantanamo Bay Closure

Michael Johnson

The White House announced this week that it is finalizing a new plan to close the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While President Obama tried to close the prison in 2009, previous attempts to transfer all prisoners out of Camp Delta have failed amid bipartisan opposition in Congress.

After a series of domestic and international successes, the Obama administration hopes to continue its momentum, emphasizing the budgetary and national security benefits of closing the prison. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated, “There has got to be a better way for us to spend taxpayer dollars than to spend more than $100 million a year operating a prison that only has, I think now, 116 inmates.” He also argued that Camp Delta serves as a “silver platter” for recruiting terrorists. However, officials did not give any previews of the new proposal or announce when it would be released.

A solider walks behind a fence at Camp Delta. (Photo: Center on National Security)

At its peak in 2003, the facility at Guantanamo Bay held more than 684 prisoners. As part of a 2010 Pentagon task force, most have been transferred back to their home countries, while others have been sent to third countries. The military believes some of the inmates that remain detained pose a threat to U.S. security interests, but prosecutors do not possess enough evidence to secure a conviction in civilian criminal court. Lastly, there are detainees that cannot be transferred back to their home country, most notably Yemen, because there is not a local government to oversee them.

The Obama administration still faces an uphill battle to persuade lawmakers, who banned Federal funding to transfer detainees to prisons in America. With the revelation that at least 74 former inmates are suspected or confirmed to have returned to terrorist activities, according to a Pentagon report, Congress will try to raise the political costs of releasing more detainees.